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Toucan Toco expands beyond data storytelling

Once a niche vendor with a particular area of expertise, the startup's latest update includes data preparation and embedded BI tools, among others, as it broadens its scope.

Toucan Toco, known primarily for its data storytelling prowess, is expanding the capabilities of its analytics suite.

The vendor, founded in 2015 and based in Paris, unveiled version 2.0 of its platform on Oct. 14, and in addition to a new edition of its data storytelling tool, the update also includes data preparation, collaboration and embedded analytics capabilities.

Toucan Toco now reports about 140 customers, and users were the motivation for the vendor's expansion beyond data storytelling, according to co-founder and CEO Charles Miglietti.

The vendor's data storytelling capabilities -- toucans symbolically represent storytelling and communication -- are known for their ease of use and dynamic visualizations, and users wanted that same ease of use applied to other aspects of the analytics process.

"Our customers came to us and asked us to apply the Toucan way of thinking to other needs we have," Miglietti said. "They told us that telling stories is important, but to get there they need to get to the data, and then once they have the stories, they still need to get them out to their teams in order to take action."

The update

Toucan Toco started with a narrow focus on data storytelling. Since then, the vendor has slowly been expanding, both in terms of its reach and its capabilities.

It now has offices in Amsterdam and Boston in addition to its home base in France, and its first moves to extend the competence of its platform were to enable self-service analytics and offer a data lake.

Version 2.0 is a leap for Toucan Toco.

Now, the vendor is building an end-to-end platform with capabilities extending from data ingestion all the way through collaboration and insight delivery. And according to Donald Farmer, founder and principal at TreeHive Strategy, the features Toucan Toco is adding to expand beyond data storytelling are constructed well and will benefit the vendor's existing users.

A sample dashboard from Toucan Toco.
A Toucan Toco dashboard shows an organization's revenues by region.

"They're well-designed," he said. "They're thoughtful capabilities that aren't just bolted on."

New tools included in the update include:

  • AnyConnect, a hub of built-in connectors that enable Toucan Toco users to collect data from any source, whether on premises or in the cloud, in less than two minutes;
  • YouPrep, a no-code data preparation tool that makes complex tasks intuitive for users without training in data science and data analysis;
  • Storytelling Studio, a reboot of Toucan Toco's data storytelling features that includes dozens of new chart types and contextual tools with a glossary of definitions to make sure customers understand their data;
  • Data Broadcasting, a tool that enables users to embed analytics into any application, web page or portal;
  • Action Center, a set of collaboration features that let users make notes, comment and share data assets via platforms like Slack and Microsoft Teams; and
  • 100% Mobile Optimization, a native mobile infrastructure that enable customers to build reports, dashboards and other analytics assets in Toucan 2.0 and then deploy them anywhere, including mobile phones and tablets, without having to rewrite code, redesign reports and other data assets, or download any additional applications.

"They've expanded out from the middle," Farmer said. "On one end, they're going deeper into the data itself -- how to collect and curate the data they're going to be telling the story with.

"And then on the other side, they've expanded out to push more into the operational systems and the decision-making systems," he continued. "I think that's a natural thing for companies to do."

They're well-designed. They're thoughtful capabilities that aren't just bolted on.
Donald FarmerFounder and principal, TreeHive Strategy

Other vendors, he added, have similarly expanded out from a single area of expertise.

For example, Tableau and Qlik were primarily known for self-service analytics before delving into data management, model preparation and insight delivery, among other parts of the analytics ecosystem.

Risk of expansion

While the addition of new capabilities will benefit Toucan Toco's existing customers, the vendor's expansion beyond data storytelling comes with risk.

Toucan Toco built its reputation on data storytelling, and attracted customers because of its expertise in a particular niche. That expertise is how it differentiated itself from other analytics vendors.

By adding such capabilities as data preparation and embedded analytics, it risks losing the identity that made it unique. In addition, Toucan Toco is now in more direct competition with established vendors for new customers.

"There's always a risk of losing your uniqueness," Farmer said. "The question is how much of their effort will now be spent on data preparation and the action side of [analytics]. There's a risk that they become distracted from their core differentiation. But I'm encouraged because I think they're aware of the risk."

He added that a key for Toucan Toco as its adds capabilities is that the vendor make those additions in a way that is unique to Toucan Toco and speaks to the design philosophy -- ease of use and visual vibrancy -- that made it a respected data storyteller.

"They have to ask, 'How do we not get dragged into being just another data preparation tool?'" Farmer, who led design and innovation teams at Qlik and Microsoft before starting his own consulting firm, said. "I hear all the right noises from Toucan Toco, but I've heard them before. I've made those mistakes before. I know those problems."

Even Miglietti acknowledged that there is risk involved with expanding so far beyond data storytelling.

"In some sense there's a risk," he said. "We went from data storytelling to a broader analytics platform, and in that sense we lose some of our identity, but our overall goal that was there before and is still here now is to remove friction. The way we're evolving, that will be part of the future."

Meanwhile, as evidenced by the inclusion of Storytelling Studio in version 2.0 of its platform, data storytelling remains a significant focus for Toucan Toco, Miglietti continued.

Data storytelling is now one of four use cases the vendor plans to prioritize. The others are cloud analytics, customer analytics and mobile analytics.

"It's a jump into a more challenging universe," Miglietti said. "We continue to work on serving the business user, and that hasn't changed. We serve the people in the field delivering impact. Toucan is now a richer, more extensive platform, and data storytelling is still a prominent use case."

Roadmap

Now that version 2.0 has been released and Toucan Toco has expanded well beyond data storytelling, the vendor's roadmap is centered around serving the same user base it has served since its inception, according to Miglietti.

He didn't address specific capabilities that might be in the development pipeline, but noted that enabling data consumers without degrees in data science and data analysis remains Toucan Toco's primary focus.

"First and foremost, we want to continue to serve business users," Miglietti said. "Second is to support of the rise of the citizen developer to create analytics at scale. And third is to enable action upstream by bridging the gap between the end user and the builder and to foster collaboration."

Farmer, meanwhile, noted that it's important for Toucan Toco to refine its new capabilities before looking to expand even further.

"What they have to focus on now is understanding how their platform fits into an enterprise analytics practice, because that's where they're going to be playing," he said. "They're no longer just a desktop tool for the interested analyst."

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